OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The mask debate rages on, as K-12 schools across San Diego County get set to re-open.
California health leaders have made it clear that students and staff will be required to wear masks, although it will be up to local school districts to decide how to enforce that mandate.
Many local parents, though, are launching a fierce opposition, saying that masks are hurting their kids.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics has made it clear that it believes everyone over age two should wear masks in school, regardless of vaccination status, a vocal group of parents who showed up at Oceanside Unified's Board of Education meeting Tuesday night were adamant: they believe that masking in school should be a personal choice.
"We are all about choice," said Sharon McKeeman, founder of the local grassroots group "Let Them Breathe."
Gathering outside Chavez Middle School, dozens of kids and their parents from the growing organization made a passionate plea to district leaders.
"I just can't see our kids suffer anymore," McKeeman told News 8. "I am concerned if we don't restore their smiles now, they are not going to have any smiles left, because as parents we see what is going on behind their masks, and it is a lot of suffering."
It was a message that they continued to deliver inside the board meeting after Oceanside district officials made it clear that they will be enforcing the state of California's masking guidelines once classes resume.
"We will continue to require students, staff and visitors to wear a face covering while indoors during school in classrooms, office spaces and school buildings," said Director of Student Services Dr. Jordy Sparks.
Several parents took to the podium in staunch opposition, arguing that masking will harm their kids' ability to learn and grow.
"How are children supposed to develop social skills when they can't even see one another's faces?" demanded one mother.
"I am asking you to allow our students to breathe clean air and not their own," she added. "Let them breathe!
Not all parents and teachers are in agreement.
"I think that we should leave this up to science," said Alyssa Schrom, a mother and Oceanside Unified's Teacher of the Year.
Schrom is also battling an auto-immune disorder and believes masking in the classroom makes sense for everyone.
"I have multiple sclerosis, so it is in my best interest to keep myself safe and my students safe," she said. "As long as schools can be open, I think masks are our best option."
California health officials say that they will review their school masking guidelines, and possibly revise them, no later than Nov. 1.
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